BBQ Competition chooses Best in the South

Grace Huseth

Statesboro’s professional and amateur grillers dominated Statesboro Music Festival’s first barbecue competition Battle in the BoroQue on Friday and Saturday.

Competitors included those from the Memphis Barbecue Network, Georgia Barbecue Association and a division for amateurs in the Backyard competition, with the chance to win in seven different categories.

Bubba Hunt from Statesboro’s Butts-n-Brews won grand professional in the Georgia Barbecue Network division in his first ever competition. He also won the “Local Pit Master Award” and a spot to compete in Las Vegas at the World BBQ Championship.

Lonnie Smith Jr. from Bubba Grills won “Best Barbecue Sauce” in the Georgia Barbecue Association division. The tomato-based sauce will be featured as a new sauce line distributed by Braswell’s, a company founded in Statesboro.

The ribs that complimented the “Best Sauce” winner started grilling at 5 a.m. Saturday morning and took 8-12 hours to cook, Joe Wright, griller from Bethel Smokes in Douglas, Ga. said.

In order to start cooking early, many competitors camped on the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fairgrounds where the battle took place.

This added to a healthy competition and the professional chefs mingled and exchanged notes on barbecue, Henry Beal, from Old Henry’s Barbecue in Sandersville, Ga. said.

“Competition is just competition. You have to stay at it to win,” Beal said.

Some of the competition from the Backyard division hit closer to home. From the Ogeechee Tech sponsored competitors, a father-son rivalry took place between John Witherington Sr. and Jr. for the best ribs

John Witherington Jr. is a GSU alumnus who teaches hotel management at Ogeechee Tech.

There was a family resemblance in both servings of ribs, but the ribs grilled by John Witherington Sr. were spicier, while Jr.’s ribs were juicier.

The technique to good ribs is to have the right cut of meat so it takes no longer than four or five hours to grill, Witherington Sr. said.

In the Backyard division, Praise Pits, a local group from Statesboro, won “Best Chicken” and BBQ Knights from Augusta won “Best Ribs”.

Honorable mentions during the competition went to Smoke Shack, who won “Best Chicken” and Bethel Smokes, who won “Best Sauce.”

Witherington said, “There’s no better way to spend a day than outside around the grill with friends.”